Mayor Sharon Weston Broome celebrated the accomplishments of her second year in office today with a high-energy State of the City address, touting the recent passage of both the MovEBR road improvements tax and the Bridge Center tax, an 18% decline in the murder rate, the opening of several new businesses in the parish and a healthy city initiative that is bringing food access to underserved parts of north Baton Rouge.
“When we all get together to address issues of community concerns, great things can be achieved,” Broome said in her lunchtime address to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club.
The speech was the first of four State of the City addresses Broome plans to deliver in coffee shops and libraries over the next three weeks. The passage of the MovEBR plan—a half-cent sales tax to fund nearly $1 billion in road and traffic infrastructure projects over the next 30 years— clearly has energized the mayor, who spent much of her first year in office putting out fires, some of her own making.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Broome, who drew applause from the crowd several times, including when she noted her recent 35-pound weight loss.
Broome also highlighted several other accomplishments of 2018, including advancements to make Baton Rouge a “digital city” through the creation of several new and upgraded digital platforms in city government; and, an increase in the homicide clearance rate, which she largely credited to Police Chief Murphy Paul.
Broome also outlined her top priorities for 2019, the first of which is to work with the Metro Council to get a raise for Baton Rouge police officers.
“We are also going to work with the Metro Council to lift the wages of other city employees,” said Broome, noting some city employees earn as little as $7.15 per hour.
When asked after the speech where she hopes to find the money for the police and employee raises, Broome said that will, in part, be up to the council. She added that a government efficiency study currently underway will hopefully produce savings that could be used to help fund pay increases.
Broome also plans to roll out initiatives to tackle blight and to address the city’s workforce development needs.
Noticeably absent from the upbeat address was any mention of the St. George incorporation effort. Last fall, supporters of the effort to form an independent city from a mostly middle-class and affluent swath of unincorporated southeast East Baton Rouge Parish submitted a petition to the Registrar of Voters to bring the measure to a vote of the people.
Asked about the omission after her speech, Broome said she is not ignoring the issue and called on St. George leaders to be honest with voters about how much the new city will really cost. But she also said she is not worried about the effort, which could go to a vote of the St. George-area electorate as soon as this fall.
“At the end of the day I’m not worried. I think we cannot ignore it, but my message was about us coming together as a (city) and a (parish). Look what we achieved with the MovEBR plan,” she said. “St. George area was very included in that.”